Riding high with a string of recent hits, Image Comics let fans in on its plans for the next year with its Saturday afternoon panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Publisher Eric Stephenson hosted the discussion, with special guests Joe Casey, Darick Robertson, Kelly Sue Deconnick, Chris Roberson, James Robinson, Howard Chaykin, Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, and Greg Rucka joining as the panel progressed.
The first project Stephenson announced was Whilce Portacio's "Non-Humans," followed by Stephenson's "Nowhere Men." Brandon Graham will do "Multiple Warheads" in October, as well. Joe Casey then came to the stage to discuss the series behind the teaser "Image Comics Wants You to Buy Sex."
"Superhero comics have always sort of brushed against the concept of sexuality," Casey said. "It's time we just embraced it." The ongoing is simply called "Sex," which is "not a joke title," but is "probably not what you're expecting." The series is illustrated by Piotr Kowalski.
Another Casey series, "Bounce," will be drawn by David Messina. The image shown obscures the main character, but Casey promised "the costume is great." Noting that some fans "wondered what illicit substances I was taking" when he was writing "Godland," Casey said, "you'll have no idea what I'm on with this.
Darick Robertson then joined the panel to discuss "Oliver" with writer Gary Whitta. Robertson he's been developing this since 2004, but it took a while to find a publisher that "would let us do it the way we want to."
Kelly Sue Deconnick ascended the dais to discuss "Pretty Deadly," her book with Emma Rios. "It's our attempt to revive the spirit of Sergio Leone," she said. "It is a Western assassin competing for a prize she does not necessarily want." She said the book is about "the beauty and what we embrace about it, and the destruction," before adding, "How pretentious does that sound?"
Chris Roberson will write "Rain," with art by Paul Mayberry. He said he built the fantasy world for it over years with the intention of doing it as a novel series. "Then I realized I was really lazy," he joked, "and this is something that could take the rest of my life." So instead "I retooled it as a comic so an artist could do the heavy lifting.
James Robinson came next, promoting "Saviors" with J. Bone. He said J. Bone was frustrated that he's viewed as a humor artist, so Robinson gave him a horror story to draw. "It's this young stoner ... uncovers an alien invasion and has to find people who believe him." Complicating matters, "the aliens themselves have many guises." The initial miniseries will be five issues, though the series may continue beyond that.
Howard Chaykin and Matt Fraction joined the panel, who are collaborating on "Satellite Sam." "It's the story of a children's TV host who is found dead in a somewhat compromising position," Fraction. "One of the thing that's found is a box of photographs of every woman Satellite Sam has 'spent time with,' and out of that box are clues to who he was and ultimately who killed him."
"The idea of conflating the Hopalong Cassidy stuff ... with the hardboiled crime stuff really appealed to me," Chaykin said.
Next up, Ed Brubaker. "He doesn't have anything to announce, he's just up here because he loves us so much," Stephenson said.
"I thought you were giving me Superman," Brubaker joked.
Stephenson then recapped the announcement that J. Michael Straczynski would be resurrecting the Joe's Comics imprint with four new titles.
Greg Rucka also joined, and he does have a project to announce: "Lazarus," with artist Michael Lark, for Spring 2013. "The log line is 'Godfather' meets 'Children of Men,' and that should be confusing," Rucka said. "It's hard sci-fi in a near-distant future, our main character gets hurt a lot and keeps coming at you."
Finally, Stephenson announced Jay Faerber's "Point of Impact," coming in October, and "Great Pacific" by Joe Harris.
The floor was then opened to questions, with Ed Brubaker manning the mic.
Asked whether the creators "got bored doing superheroes," Deconnick said that she enjoys both mainstream and creator owned books. "I have different muscle groups to work out," she said. Robertson added that, while he enjoyed "Wolverine," "I'm more known for my creator-owned work."
Stephenson, catching on part of Robertson's answer, said that his Image series are "not books you're doing for us, you're doing them with us."
Chaykin said that, despite his long experience, "I had a learning curve here because of the model." "I was not getting the feedback from editorial," he said, "so I was put in the position of having to make decisions on my own." And while he puts the same level of craft into any project he does, Chaykin admitted that Image is a lot more fun.
"Image is the only place where it's pure artistic expression, pure creative freedom," Casey added.
Speaking more on the concept of his "Nowhere Men," he said the series examines what would have happened if scientists rather than rock stars like the Beatles had changed the world and drawn the public's imagination. "And some cool stuff happens, too."
Robertson was asked about his series "Happy!" with Grant Morrison. "It's a crime noir setting that takes a crazy twist at the end of the first issue," he said. "It's about a private detective whose entire existence is buying booze, prostitutes and eczema medicine," Robertson added. "It's a Christmas story. If i offended you in the past I'll offend you here, too." He said that the less known about the series, the better.
Robertson's "Oliver," he said, is a post-apocalyptic story which finds clones used as work slaves, and is "Oliver Twist but not Oliver Twist." A short trailer followed.
Robinson said he would like to do more "Leave It to Chance," but has no idea how to contact artist Paul Smith.
After some banter about Chaykin's dirty covers for "Black Kiss II," Robinson said, "I'm already stocking up on hand lotion."
"Me too," quipped Deconnick.
Chaykin said that, like the original, "it's very funny, too."
With so many creators mentioning projects they've been thinking of for five, ten years, one fan wondered how they decide which to tackle and how they keep them straight. "I literally have a stack of notecards on my desk," Fraction said. Stephenson added that "Lazarus" was the third project Rucka mentioned when they were discussing his next project, and when he described it Stephenson said, "We're doing this."
Rucka added that ideas come, go, and "come back up," and RSS news feeds are a great source of inspiration. Roberson said that "an idea might not be a whole idea," at which point it can be put aside and scavenged later.
"I find the best ideas are the persistent ones, the ones that keep coming back to you," Robertson said, while Deconnick said she writes about "what I'm angry about, whether I want to or not."
Deconnick described "Pretty Deadly" as following a woman who is disfigured, which actually gives her certain privileges in society. "It's expected that, well, she'll never marry, so she has to be able to own property," she said, listing other benefits as well before stopping herself. "I am not selling this book, am I?"
"It's about sex and violence," Stephenson added wryly.
Asked whether creator owned series were easier, Fraction said, "Oh God no." "If I wanted easy, I'd be a ditch digger. I fantasize about digging ditches." Robinson added that he's "terrified" at his first creator-owned book in some time. "If it's a piece of shit, I have no one to blame but myself."